Letter to the Editor: Engage with potential ASG tobacco smoking referendum

Within the last decade, one particular issue has continued to remain an unresolved discussion on campus despite having resurfaced numerous times — tobacco smoking on campus. As this issue directly impacts a large portion of the student body, senators within Associated Student Government, myself included, felt it was important to propose a referendum to all current undergraduate students regarding the allowance of tobacco smoking at the University. Through this referendum, we hope that you will aid us in successfully eliminating this significant health hazard from our community.

Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, more than 41,000 of which were a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. Illinois has banned smoking in nearly all public places, including libraries, museums and educational institutions. In addition, the state has enforced the Smoke-Free Campus Act, banning smoking from all Illinois public universities and implementing task forces to ensure execution. Currently, more than 1,400 college campuses ban cigarette smoking, and the majority of them are tobacco-free.

Together, ASG and Faculty Senate have considered proposals on tobacco product bans at least three times over the past decade, but campus-wide legislation has been unsuccessful. There have been numerous past attempts to appeal to University administration in reconsidering the current status of smoking campus, and the most recent attempt in 2015 was even supported by Evanston’s public health department.

Therefore, we hope to hold a referendum to better gauge the thoughts of the student body. It will ask the student body if they strongly disagree, disagree, agree or strongly agree with the following statement: “I think smoking on campus is a nuisance.” In addition, the referendum will follow up asking, “What would you want the university to do about smoking on campus?” Students would be able to respond with “I wouldn’t want the university to change a thing,” “The university policy prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of campus buildings should be enforced more often” or “I believe that all tobacco smoking/cigarette smoking on campus should be banned.”

The proposed referendum will not address electronic vaporizers, e-cigarettes, Juuls or any other nicotine substitutes. If passed, it will be sent out to the student body in March.

As tobacco smoking remains one of the leading preventable causes of death in the country, concerned senators within ASG believe it is in the best interests of the NU community to ban smoking from the campus altogether.

The purpose of this proposed referendum is to help clarify campus opinion regarding the consequences of allowing tobacco smoking on campus. Although as the author of this piece, I do have opinions on the matter, the referendum itself has been written via a neutral third party to present to the campus community. Rather, we hope to foster a productive discussion and consensus on this important issue that’s garnered debate throughout campus over the past several years. We hope that all students will participate in the upcoming vote and let their voices be heard.

Bassel Shanab, Associated Student Government senator